Chasing his sixth career European Championship title, Olympic champion Evgeni Plushenko was near perfect in his short program to lead the field of 37 men in Tallinn, Estonia. With such a large field, the short program also served as a qualifying round, with the top 20 men in the standings qualifying to skate in the free skate tomorrow.
Related: Photos from the men’s short
Related: More photos from the men’s short
In his much anticipated return to competition this season, Plushenko has not competed off Russian soil until today. He showed no rust, skating his best short program of the season so far and breaking his own world record score in the process. With his trademark quad toe-triple toe combination, he racked up a score of 91.30, almost a point higher than the world record that he set at the 2006 Olympics.
But Plushenko does not have a huge cushion even with his world record score. Fewer than three points behind is 2007 World champion Brian Joubert, who is skating for the first time since having surgery on his foot in December. What surprised some observers is the fact that Joubert tied for the highest Program Component Score (PCS) in the competition and beat Plushenko’s PCS. Had he not doubled the backend of his quad toe-triple toe combination, it likely would have been Joubert who would have set the new world record mark in the short program. Nevertheless, his 88.55 was a new personal best.
Surprisingly in third is Joubert’s countryman, 2009 French champion Yannick Ponsero, who also scored a personal best to put himself in contention for his first European medal. His superb short program was a bittersweet consolation prize for missing the Olympic team last month after losing his French title to youngster Florent Amodio.
Czech champion Michal Brezina sits in fourth with 79.60 after a clean short. He once again outshone his more accomplished countryman, Tomas Verner, who struggled with his jumps again and is in eighth heading into the free skate. Olympic silver medalist Stephane Lambiel had trouble with his quad combination and is currently in fifth, five points from the podium.
Top 20 Men (after the short program)
1. Evgeni Plushenko RUS – 91.30
2. Brian Joubert FRA – 88.55
3. Yannick Ponsero FRA – 82.40
4. Michal Brezina CZE – 79.60
5. Stephane Lambiel SUI – 77.75
6. Alban Preaubert FRA – 76.37
7. Samuel Contesti ITA – 75.90
8. Tomas Verner CZE – 72.75
9. Stefan Lindemann GER – 70.19
10. Kristoffer Berntsson SWE – 69.20
11. Kevin Van Der Perren BEL – 67.72
12. Adrian Schultheiss SWE – 66.55
13. Javier Fernandez ESP – 66.50
14. Anton Kovalevski UKR – 65.20
15. Viktor Pfeifer AUT – 63.42
16. Paolo Bacchini ITA – 60.90
17. Sergei Voronov RUS – 60.27
18. Zoltan Kelemen ROU – 59.40
19. Jorik Hendrickx BEL – 58.70
20. Gregor Urbas SLO – 56.90
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